Buccaneers: Immediate observations and reactions from Week 11

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 19: Patrick Murray of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicks the game winning field goal during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 19, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 19: Patrick Murray of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicks the game winning field goal during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 19, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images /

The Buccaneers (4-6) went down to Miami on Sunday and somehow escaped with a 30-20 win over the Dolphins (4-6). Here, we have observations and reactions from Tampa Bay’s second straight victory.

20. 59. 30. 48. Final

The Buccaneers blew a 20-7 lead, but found a way to win 30-20 with a late field goal and a last-second fumble recovery for a touchdown. Let’s get to some reactions.

Observations and Reactions- General

-Tampa Bay finally won away from Raymond James Stadium, snapping a six-game road losing streak that dated back to last year.

-The Bucs finally found a way to get out to a good start too, which is something they haven’t done since early October. They led 20-7 at halftime on Sunday.

-But… what a poor second half. The offense couldn’t move and the defense couldn’t stop backup quarterback Matt Moore. Luckily for Tampa Bay, Miami is just as broken. Neither team really deserved to win, but if one had to, at least it was the Bucs.

-Penalties were a factor once again on Sunday afternoon, but Tampa Bay managed to take advantage of Miami’s mistakes. The Bucs were penalized nine times for 82 yards, but the Dolphins had it worse, getting flagged 17 times for 123 yards.

-The Bucs went with red jerseys again. And they won again. Coincidence? I think not.

-This team isn’t built for the defense to lead the way, but for some reason, the Bucs have relied on the defense to win games the last two weeks. That’s not because the defense is actually that good. It has much more to do with the ineptitude of the offense.

Must Read: What did the film show prior to Miami?

Observations and Reactions- Offense

-The offense scored two touchdowns in the first half. TWO. That’s notable considering it hadn’t found the end zone in a first half since Oct. 5.

Ryan Fitzpatrick had himself a good first half, but was very ineffective in the second. Overall, it was another average day. He completed 22 of his 37 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. More notably, he picked up a second win in two starts for Tampa Bay.

Chris Godwin came up with just two catches against Miami, but they were both big ones. The two came on the final drive of the game, with the second going for 24 yards to the Dolphins’ 20. He’ll certainly get more looks in the coming weeks.

-Rookie O.J. Howard led the way in the first half. He caught three passes for 52 yards and a touchdown on the afternoon, making it a happy birthday for him.

-It was great to have Mike Evans back on Sunday, as he led the receiving corps with five catches for 92 yards. He had a key 17-yard catch on the game-winning drive.

-The Bucs continued to struggle on the ground this week. Doug Martin had a few explosive runs, but also had quite a few plays where he was stuffed at the line. He finished with 38 yards on 19 carries.

-Play-calling is still a problem and Dirk Koetter hasn’t showed any signs of giving it up. Just one instance that comes to mind is a screen pass to Adam Humphries on third and ten when the Bucs were up by just seven. Surprise: It didn’t work.

-Tampa Bay can’t figure out how to put together a complete performance on offense. Usually, it finds a way to score in the second half only after sleep-walking through the first 30 minutes. The opposite happened on Sunday, as the group failed was shut out for most of the second half.

-The offensive game plan just doesn’t look good. It’s a problem. Specifically, the run game is broken. Why are the Bucs running toss plays? This backfield isn’t built to run laterally. Martin especially is at his best when running straight ahead. Week after week, we see negative run plays that are largely due to the play-call.

-The second half was very bad, but it was saved by a late drive that set up the go-ahead field goal. But after a big first half, 321 total yards is pretty disappointing.

Observations and Reactions- Defense

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-Turnovers were a huge factor for the Buccaneer defense on Sunday. It allowed quite a few big plays, but was bailed out on multiple occasions by turnovers. In the first half, Tampa Bay picked off Jay Cutler three times and recovered a fumble. Those interceptions came from Justin Evans, Kwon Alexander and Robert McClain. Ryan Smith forced and recovered the fumble.

-Alexander is a stud. That’s not breaking news, but Sunday was his best game of the year. In addition to his pick, he had eight tackles (one for loss). He came up with a key third down stop in the fourth quarter as well.

Gerald McCoy had a very good day as well, finishing with seven tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits. He now has five sacks this season and 46.5 in his career. He was part of a huge fourth down stop midway through the fourth quarter, teaming up with Chris Baker to stop the Dolphins just inches short of a first down in Tampa Bay territory.

-The secondary came up with some big interceptions and pass breakups throughout the afternoon, but there was still far too much relaxation in coverage. Kenny Stills totaled 180 yards on seven catches (including the game-tying 61-yard score in the fourth), while Jarvis Landry went for 95 yards and a touchdown on six catches. Big plays were an issue for the Tampa Bay defense, especially in the second half against Moore.

T.J. Ward got the start over Chris Conte on Sunday, but didn’t make the most of it. The veteran missed tackles and still ran his mouth, getting called for taunting at one point early in the game.

-The defense allowed 448 yards to a very mediocre Miami offense. The Bucs truly were bailed out by penalties and red zone failures.

Observations and Reactions- Special Teams

Patrick Murray was the hero on Sunday for the Bucs, kicking three field goals. That includes the game-winner, which came from 35 yards out. His other two makes were from 30 yards. The lone blemish on his day was a missed 42-yarder that would have saved Tampa Bay from a little suspense.

Bryan Anger didn’t have a great day, but he did boot a 62-yarder. Overall, he averaged 41.5 yards per punt, but had just two downed inside the 20.

Adarius Glanton added the exclamation point on the win with a special teams play, recovering a fumble for a touchdown on the last play of the game.

Next: Buccaneers Round Table: Can this team go on a run?

Final Thoughts

Sunday was another ugly win for the Buccaneers, but ugly wins are still wins, right? The first half was definitely a step forward. The offense actually scored and the defense came up with some big takeaways. Points off turnovers w

ill always be a key, and the Bucs used that to their advantage in the first 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the offense fell asleep in the second half and the defense gave up some big plays and the lead. That can’t happen against good teams. Fortunately for Tampa Bay, Miami is not a good team. The drive that set up the game-winning field goal was well-constructed. Ryan Fitzpatrick was hitting his receivers and making smart plays. The final few minutes made up for a frustrating second half.

Wins are always nice. The Bucs did a lot right, but probably did more wrong in a winning effort. The roster isn’t at full strength, which makes these last two wins even sweeter. Tampa Bay was completely dead at 2-6, but at 4-6? Well, maybe there’s just a little bit of hope left after all. Jameis Winston could be healthy in a couple of weeks, which would hopefully get the Tampa Bay offense clicking. Fitzpatrick, though, is doing an admirable job in his absence. He is winning, which is all the Bucs can ask of him.

Now, Tampa Bay has a tough little stretch coming up. But a couple more wins could make things awfully interesting, huh? Of course, losses will kill any hope and retrospectively make these last two wins harmful to the team’s draft position. But I hate to be that guy, so I won’t be. Just forget I said that. Enjoy this victory and have a Happy Thanksgiving, Bucs fans.

The Bucs return to the field next Sunday in Atlanta, squaring off with the Falcons (5-4)* at 1:00 p.m.

If you’d like to hear more Buccaneers discussion, be sure to check out the PewterCast’s InstantCast show for this week where several callers brought up the topic.  Available on all major podcasting apps.